Discovered by the French in 1562, conquered by the Spanish and named after Princess Amelia of England in 1710, Amelia Island has been ruled by 8 different sovereigns – one of them a rowdy bunch of pirates! Modern day visitors feast on fresh, local wild-caught shrimp available in the same waters navigated by the long-ago explorers and pirates. Stroll through the charming Victorian downtown City of Fernandina Beach and enjoy the relaxing Southern atmosphere of Old Florida.
*DEMONSTRATION classes make students feel like they’re on a live cooking show! Similar to the programs viewed on Food Network, students relax and watch as Chef Thompson prepares the food, demonstrating the techniques and skills used in professional kitchens.
*Roll up your sleeves and bring an apron for PARTICIPATION CLASSES! Chef Bill will teach you to improve your skills and techniques while creating delicious meals.
*Both types of classes are interactive and lively, with questions encouraged and the mysteries of cooking techniques revealed. Students are invited to taste the dishes and will receive copies of all recipes.
1. What inspired you to go into the culinary arts?
I needed to eat in college. My mom was always a good cook but I never cooked at home. When I got to college, the food was simply terrible and so I started cooking for myself – discovering that I not only enjoyed eating good food, I also wanted to make food good!
2. Who was your favorite culinary teacher? Why?
Every single day I learn something new, so I don’t have one favorite. I take cooking classes whenever we travel, and I enjoy learning from culinary experts all over the world.
3. Do you have a favorite kind of cuisine to make?
I like to make cuisines from all over the world.
4. What do you love about teaching culinary arts?
I love sharing my passion and craft with others.
5. What was your first culinary job?
When I was 15-years-old, I took a job as a dishwasher in a pizza restaurant. Working in the back, I learned to make dough from an older Sicilian gentleman who spoke no English at all. When I wasn’t washing dishes, I would help him make the dough lifting huge bags of flour to pour into the huge mixing bowl, helping him with other heavy/difficult tasks. He taught me to push little dimples into the dough with my fingers for the olive oil to rest in.
6. You worked in Charleston, South Carolina with independent restaurants. What was your favorite thing about that?
Working right beside the docks and having the fishermen bring the seafood directly to the back kitchen door. The food vibe in Charleston was fantastic!
7. Where you do you get your culinary inspiration?
All around me – restaurants – gardens – stores – articles – my own appetite – and from my wife and children requesting certain foods!
8. You’re passionate about the slow food movement as well as the farm-to-table movement. Why is that so important to you?
Because both movements focus on the importance of eating whole foods – that are wholesome and natural and good. These movements emphasize that the best food comes from nature– it’s honest, healthful and fresh. Real food tastes like food – not like the processed food that tastes like chemicals put together in some factory designed to taste like “food.”
9. What did you learn from your experience working with the Ritz Carlton?
As a chef with the Ritz-Carlton culinary team, I learned how to treat guests and to take care of people. Prior to the Ritz, I had always been confined to the kitchen itself – I had never been involved with the guests.
10. What makes you a great culinary teacher?
Patience – knowledge - passion
11. Do you have a favorite dish you prepare?
Whatever I’m inspired to make that day by ingredients that are fresh and available.
12. What are your favorite go-to ingredients?
Olive oil – garlic – butter – fresh produce – Amelia Island wild-caught shrimp
13. Why did you decide to start the Amelia Island Culinary Academy?
As a way to share my food enthusiasm and to empower people to take control of their culinary world.
14. What do you like to do when you are not cooking?
Eat, read about food and food history, shop for food, travel!
*Former Ritz-Carlton Chef
*Taught professional Culinary Arts for over ten years
*Graduate of Johnson & Wales University
Chef Bill Thompson loves to cook and has fun when he’s cooking! His classes demonstrate basic and advanced culinary skills, increase student’s self-confidence, and make you laugh! After receiving his Culinary Arts degree, Chef Thompson worked in small independent restaurants in foodie city Charleston, South Carolina before joining the Ritz-Carlton culinary team.
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